Friday, June 16, 2017

Even District Attorneys Are Not Above the Law






 In October 2014, I produced an episode of Talking with Henrietta, called Crime and Punishment: How Will You Vote? On the show, I talked with three guests: Stacey McGruder, Raj Jayadev and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson. We discussed the pros and cons of Proposition 47, a measure on the November 2014 California State Ballot that, if approved, would reclassify crimes that were considered felonies as misdemeanors.

Such a reclassification would allow many ex-prisoners, who were convicted as felons to get the felony convictions off their records. Their record clearances would allow them more access to employment, housing opportunities, financial aid and the right to vote. It would also open other doors that were once formerly closed to them.

On the show McGruder and Jayadev argued for the passage of Prop 47, while Petersen argued against it, supporting the idea that the passage of Prop 47 would lead to an increase in crime. In his words, it would “make our neighborhoods and schools less safe.” See the show description on the East Palo Alto Today website here

During the November 2014 election, California voters gave overwhelming support to Prop 47, leading to its passage by a vote of 59.61% to 40.39%

At the time of the show, Peterson was up for reelection as Contra Costa County’s District Attorney and he ran uncontested. 

Well, three years later, as life would have it, in an ironic twist of fate, the California Attorney General’s office charged Peterson with 12 counts of felony perjury and a single count of felony grand theft for allegedly lying on his campaign disclosure forms from 2012 to 2015.

In response to the charges, Peterson, pleaded no contest to a felony perjury charge of using more than $66,000 in campaign funds to make 600 purchases, which included the purchase of jewelry, groceries, various other items and the payment of personal bills.

Immediately, after his plea on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Peterson was sentenced to three years’ informal probation and ordered to serve 250 hours of community service. After being sentenced, Peterson resigned from office.

Earlier this year, a Contra Costa County grand jury formally accused Peterson of “willful or corrupt” misconduct and initiated proceedings to remove him from office.

Peterson was fined $45,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which ruled that he had “violated California’s political reform act nine times.”

In response to the grand jury findings, the fine and other allegations surrounding Peterson's office,  a petition was posted to Change.org, calling for his resignation. The petition garnered 442 votes.

With Peterson’s felony conviction and his resignation from office, it seems only just that public officials, who are sworn to uphold the law, are prosecuted when they commit crimes. What a dramatic fall from grace for Peterson!

Peterson’s case shows that district attorneys are not above the law themselves when they commit crimes. So, is it true that the way you judge others is the way you, yourself, will be judged? Now wouldn’t it be interesting if the felonies Peterson had been charged with had been reclassified as misdemeanors? He, certainly, would not have supported that idea when he was campaigning in 2014. Would he have a change of mind now?

Given his situation today, wouldn’t it be accurate to consider him a convicted felon, who took a plea deal?


Sunday, June 4, 2017

East Palo Alto has a Climate Action Plan

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Dealing with Climate Change
Talking with Henrietta - Taped February 13, 2011


The fact that Pres. Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord has disturbed  millions of people throughout the world. It’s somewhat troubling to see that the U. S. now joins only two other countries, Nicaragua and Syria, which are not signatories to the agreement. It is  reported that Nicaragua did not sign the climate agreement because the agreement was not strong enough. Even North Korea has signed it.

In explaining his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, Pres. Trump made his now famous remark that he was elected to "represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." You can read the complete text of his speech here  on the whitehouse.gov website. However, Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, PA, issued a statement in which he wrote, “Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow the Paris agreement.”

The day after making his statement, Peduto issued an executive order stating, “The City of Pittsburgh endorses and remains fully committed to our 2030 objectives, as announced during the Paris summit.”

As of today, 187 U.S. mayors, including Peduto, and 10 state governors denounced Trump’s decision and vowed to uphold the Paris agreement. You can see a partial list of their names here.   

Some U.S. cities already have Climate Actions Plans. It might be surprising to hear that the City of East Palo Alto is one of these cities. In fact, Russell Averhart, the former redevelopment manager for the City of East Palo Alto, wrote the city's Climate Action Plan more than five years ago. He discussed the city's plan on the Talking with Henrietta television show called, Dealing with Climate Change. Averhart appeared on the show on February 23, 2011 with two other guests, artist Michael Killen and NASA scientist Edwin Sheffner. You can see a video excerpt from the show at the top of this column or click here to see it directly on YouTube. 


Of course, now, there are people, who agree with Trump and one such group held a rally across from the White House on Sunday, June 4, 2017, holding signs saying, "Pittsburgh, not Paris." 

So, with whom do you agree, with most of the world or with President Trump and his supporters?

Monday, November 16, 2015

The lack of opportunities can adversely affect every sector of our society



There is more and more data to show how poverty affects where we live, how much education we receive, the quality of our education, the type of jobs we get and how long we will live. The presentation that Edith Cabuslay presented to the Palo Alto Rotary Club this past Monday, November 2nd was a powerful description of what are called the social determinants of health. As the program services manager for the San Mateo County Health System’s Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Unit, Cabuslay has compiled a lot of data to show just how much income and educational disparities have a ripple effect throughout society. You can see by clicking here some of what Cabuslay says about these social determinants on an edition of the Talking with Henrietta show.

Not only does the lack of education and opportunities affect African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos the most in the United States, but articles are now being written on how the lack of educational opportunities is a major factor in the increasing suicide rates among middle-class white Americans. You can read one of these articles here.

It's becoming more and more obvious that all sectors of our society are connected to and affected by what happens to other sectors in our society.  New research shows that there are stresses and strains on every group in one way or the other. We will know that America has turned the corner in offering equal access to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to everyone in our society, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc. when it gets better at offering equal access to educational opportunities to all of its residents. Cabuslay thinks this video shows where we must put our attention as a society to improve the quality of life for everyone. See if you agree with her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Education in America Needs to Go Beyond the Academics

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It has been said that getting an education is a way out of poverty and a way for people to dramatically improve the quality of their lives. Pres. Obama certainly seems to subscribe to this idea with his emphasis on education this month, both in his recommendation to have community college education provided free to those who want it, and in the emphasis that he placed on education in his State of the Union address.

But with all of the emphasis being placed on the importance of education, what does it mean to be educated? For many educators and philosophers, education involves more than a focus on academics, for the sake of learning facts and figures. In some circles, being educated was traditionally looked at as a pathway for an individual to become a well-rounded human being.

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The Cambridge Dictionary defines well-rounded as "involving or having experience in a wide range of ideas or activities."


One can even find online in WikiHow a series of steps that each person can take to become well-rounded. These steps include learning about other cultures and countries; reading books, magazines, newspapers; getting involved in lots of activities, like painting, dancing, creating music and other hobbies; and being open-minded to new things. The entire list can be seen at http://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Well-Rounded-Person

It might be that in East Palo Alto, the Ravenswood City School District Superintendent, Gloria Hernandez-Goff, is starting students off early on the road to being well-rounded, since she and other district leaders think that the district must go beyond the teaching of academic basics, if the students in East Palo Alto are to excel in academics.  The superintendent has taken the position that public school education in East Palo Alto should address the needs of the whole child (Click here to see an excerpt from Superintendent Hernandez-Goff's recent interview on the Talking with Henrietta show, Looking at the Common Core - Part 1.).

The district recognizes that students can't learn well, for example, when they are hungry, when they are sick, when they are regularly subjected to stressful living conditions, like crime and violence or when they lack regular opportunities for exercise. So, the district has created wraparound programs for students that address these situations.  Even today, January 21, the district formally launched a new program, which includes yoga, to promote the health and wellness of each student. Read a brief post about the program on East Palo Alto Today's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/eastpaloaltotoday.

So, as one considers various perspectives about education, one can still ask, what does it mean for individuals to be educated? What does it mean for the U.S. to have an educated citizenry? How best should that education be provided and should it be accessible to everyone regardless of his or her ability to pay? These are just a few questions our national leaders and local educators are addressing as our country grapples with some of the global, national and local issues we face.

When all is said and done, even the definition of education is becoming more inclusive, with education currently being acknowledged not only as a personal way up the ladder, but also as a national prerequisite for the U.S. to maintain its position as a world leader among nations.

It isn't heard as often as it once was and it has undergone change, but the United Negro College Fund's saying that "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" is probably even more true today than ever. Certainly, such a loss would be a loss for the individual and for those who are close to that person.  Now, as things are shaping up, each mind, around us, that is not fulfilling its potential, not only represents a personal loss, but it also represents a loss for our country and for our planet, as well.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday : The time is always right to do what is right




The U.S. recognizes the third Monday in January as an official holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year the holiday falls on Monday, January 19. But, did you know that January 15 is Dr. King's actual birthday.

In recognition of Dr. King's birthday, today, and in honor of the King holiday, the Rainbow Push Coalition, led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, issued a special press release. It is called, An Open Letter to the Technology Industry
Honor the King Holiday “The Time is Always right to do what is right”


It is written by Rev. Jackson. You will find it reprinted in its entirety below:
 
January 15,  2015


Today is Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.   After much blood, sweat and tears, it is a cherished national holiday when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, his life of struggle and the legacy he left for our ongoing struggle for civil and human rights.

Government offices, banks, schools, and many businesses will close this coming Monday, January 19, 2015.

But most technology companies will not be observing Martin Luther King Day – sadly but not surprisingly, they be open and conducting business as usual.

Last year, the Rainbow PUSH successfully engaged over two dozen leading technology companies to release their EEO-1 report and workforce diversity data.  The data over and over showed the glaring under-representation of Black, Latinos and women in the every company.

And the campaign has generated a new climate of change sweeping through Silicon Valley and the tech industry.   Nowhere is this climate of change apparent than in Intel’s diversity initiative announced at the start of 2015: they have set a goal of reaching full representation of women and people of color in their workforce, measuring progress, tying compensation to diversity performance goals, and setting a specific timetable – 2020, just five years from now – to achieve their goals.  And they’ve allocated an initial $300 million budget to begin to implement their plan.

RainbowPUSH is holding its 18th annual Wall Street Economic Summit in New York this week – including keynotes from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and participation from Silicon Harlem, Tech Meet up, Black Enterprise and the Nat.l Venture Capital Association. 

We started this Wall Street initiative with the simple idea that the NY Stock Exchange should honor the King Holiday.  We appealed to Dick Grasso, chair of the NYSE at the time, and we won.

It does not make sense to tout diversity and inclusion, to promote change and innovation and not recognize the King Holiday.

It’s time for the technology companies to join with America, and close their doors and honor the King Holiday.   Close your doors on the King Holiday, and expand your effort to open the doors of opportunity for women and people of color. 


This Monday only a handful of technology companies will close their doors and honor the King Holiday.    For those that don’t, make clear your commitment to diversity and inclusion.  Make clear your alignment with civil and human rights.

Make clear your intention to close your doors and honor the King Holiday in 2016 and forever on, and let freedom ring throughout the valley.

As Dr. King would say “The time is always right to do what is right.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Healthy Partnerships Strengthen Us All


East Palo Alto Today will be nine years old in January 2015. This year, especially, it has worked in collaboration with other ethnic media organizations to expand and enhance the news coverage it has provided to its readers.

The partnerships the paper has formed have only added to the collective strength that collaborating media organizations bring to the individual communities they serve.

As 2014 comes to a close, EPA Today, on behalf of its founding organization, the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media, would like to thank all of its followers for the opportunity to be of service. We know that with their support and your support, EPA Today will be able to continue to fulfill its commitment to bring relevant news and information to its reading public. It will also be able to continue to strengthen its partnerships with other media organizations.

As the new year unfolds, we have one request of you. As EPA Today and the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media partners with others, a key goal is to continue our collaboration with you - our reading public.

So, as you read these words, please consider how you can partner with us in 2015 to enable us to fulfill our commitments to you. For ideas, see http://eepurl.com/baufA9

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Role of Ethnic Media: Increasing in Influence



With California's growing multi-cultural population, one can expect that various ethnic groups will develop and support media outlets that focus on their individual issues. Félix Gutiérrez, a professor of journalism and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, supported this idea when he said, “In a multicultural society, people pay attention to media that pay attention to them.”


A 2013 Pew Research Center survey showed that the mainstream media in the U.S. is declining dramatically.
Nearly one-third of the survey's respondents (31%) said that they had deserted their regular news outlets because they no longer provided them with the in-depth news and information to which they had grown accustomed.

A poll taken several years ago by the firm Bendixen & Associates, showed that ethnic media in the U.S. is thriving. According to the poll, one quarter of the U.S. population regularly turns to ethnic media for information and 13% of U.S. adults said that they preferred ethnic media over mainstream media as a source of their information.

As mainstream media outlets shrink and undergo various transformations, ethnic media outlets are continuing to assume responsibility for getting critical news and information to their individual communities.

While some might debate the extent of the growing power of ethnic media, their influence is evident in many communities throughout the U.S.

One of the nation's most prominent ethnic media organizations is New America Media, also known as NAM. In future posts, I'll say more about New America Media and describe how East Palo Alto Today and my show, Talking with Henrietta, are working with NAM to get information to the public on several important issues.